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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Below is the text of the letter I sent to my MP about the situation in Iraq. If anyone actually reads this thing (I live in hope) I urge you to do the same. It may only have a limited effect, but if we do nothing then we guarantee that we will not change anything. So... What are you waiting for?


Saturday 10 April 2004

Dear Mr Simon Burns,

I am writing to express my concern about the deteriorating situation in Iraq and particularly about the conduct of the coalition.

The current Shia uprising is one of the clearest examples of coalition mismanagement serving to inflame tensions. Moqtada al-Sadr's hostility to the Americans and opposition to the occupation of Iraq has been well known for sometime, nonetheless, until last weekend this had not been expressed in actual violence. The trigger for the uprising was the decision by coalition authorities to ban his newspaper, al-Hawza, apparently because it claimed that a recent explosion had been caused not by a terrorist/resistance bomb but by a US helicpoter. This act was not only fundamentally undemocratic, but also inexplicable given the organ's fairly limited readership (around 10,000). This and the decision to arrest one of al-Sadr's senior aides led to protests. On Sunday US soldiers opened fire on one of these demonstrations (provoked either by stones thrown on gunfire). This left several dead and many injured and in response protesters seized several police stations. The situation has deteriorated from there.

While events in the Shia areas have attracted much of the media attention the situation in Fallujah may be even more serious. The town has come under attack in retaliation for the killings of four Americans last week, though it is hard to see how the response can be seen as proportional. The coalition has sought to take control of the city, apparently by any means neccesary, including the use of B52 bombers. Although it is difficult to get reliable figures, those on the ground put the death toll at around five hundred and to show for this the coalition has only gained control of about one fifth of the city and has yet to get to the main residential areas. The risk of a truly horrific bloodbath is very real.

Clearly I have only touched on the horror of what is currently unfolding in Iraq. It is difficult to get a clear picture and a thesis would hardly convey the reality. Nonetheless one thing is clear: The occupation is not serving to maintain order and prevent a civil war as its supporters claim, but is actively (and perhaps consciously?) inflaming the situation.

I urge you to call for an end to the Anglo-American occupation and for it to be replaced with a UN and/or Arab peacekeeping force with a more limited mandate to aid the transition to a sovereign Iraqi government. This seems the best chance for peace and stability in the country, which I believe it is now clear the US and the UK cannot bring by force of arms.

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